Help for Heroes is seven years old.
Emma nor I could ever have foreseen that when we decided ‘to just do something’ we would be still doing it years later, let alone doing it alongside a superb team of staff, volunteers and fund raisers. I suppose we thought we would raise a great deal of money, ‘ do our bit’ and then get back to our lives. It has not quite worked out like that.
I sometimes wonder how on earth we ended up founding and working for an organisation like H4H and it made me think back to my own life to better understand my motivation.
I was four and a half when my father, a Lieutenant Colonel in the army, a Military Cross winner who had twice been wounded in Burma, was killed on active service and my mother got the knock on the door. We had three weeks to clear our house and returned to England to live in a caravan. Mum drove the tractor and milked the cows; it was years before we got any compensation. I went to school as a charity kid, educated for free because my father had served. I followed in his footsteps at eighteen, joined the army and I had completed two operational tours and had seen a fellow soldier killed before my twenty first birthday. In 1981, on my last tour of Northern Ireland, we lost seven men in our part of South Armagh. A year later our Regimental Band was blown up in Regents Park, killing another seven and the rest were injured. I served for ten years and then became a father to my son who is serving now. He has buried five of his friends, killed in action, and has many friends who will live with their injuries.
I think I understand why I work for Help for Heroes. I understand that terrible things happen and good people are killed or injured; I can't prevent that. I can’t stop young men and women from volunteering to serve, and nor would I if I could; I loved my time in the army. I can’t stop them being shot, blown up or suffering from awful, sometimes hidden, physical and mental injuries. I can’t prevent families being torn apart or lives being irrevocably changed; that’s beyond me.
What can I do? I can make a difference. I can help make their lives better. I can play my part in their recovery. So can you.
Together, we are making a difference, rebuilding shattered lives, offering hope where there was despair. These young men and women are our boys and girls now. Together we have celebrated Ben getting married, seen Steve beat his predicated sales in his new business, wiped away a tear when we have seen Jack walk on his prosthetics or smiled to see Jon build his house.
Now we have more to do. We need to give Jason a reason to live, Bernie the psychological support she needs to cope, Nick the opportunity to start again. We won’t get it right each time, we know that, we can’t do it for them. They have to rebuild their lives, become independent and fulfilled, that’s their challenge. All we can do is help them on their way and be there when they need us. We have much to do and our support must continue for years to come.
I think I understand why I’m doing this and I think you know why you are as well; it's personal. We are working together to do what we can to help and we are making a difference.
Thank you for joining us in this effort.
Onwards and Upwards